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The N.C. Highway Patrol cruiser looks sharp, but it's hard to beat a tornado

They call it the “ghost car.” And it’s pretty impressive, pictured with one of the North Carolina Highway Patrol’s newest Bell helicopters hovering in the background.

Alas, the photo didn’t beat out the Nebraska Highway Patrol photo — the one with a tornado in the background — in the 2019 Best-Looking Cruiser Contest sponsored by the American Association of State Troopers.

“Nebraska, they cheated,” Sgt. Chris Knox said and chuckled. “It was a straight-up cheat, you can’t put a tornado in the picture.”

Still, North Carolina’s photo came in seventh out of the 42 submitted by state police agencies nationwide.

And that’s good enough to put it on the 2020 wall calendar that will be sold online at in late September. Net proceeds of the calendar sales will benefit the American Association of State Troopers Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to dependents of foundation members.

In last year’s contest, North Carolina placed third — losing out to Kentucky State Police for the top prize. North Carolina placed fifth in 2017.

During two weeks this July, 394,572 votes were cast in the contest via SurveyMonkey. Nebraska’s photo got 68,320, while North Carolina’s garnered 17,169.

“We enjoy the light-hearted competitiveness of this,” Knox said. “We pick fun with each other and each other’s design.”

Seriously, though, “I give it to them,” Knox said of Nebraska’s entry. “They captured an amazing photo.”

Free vaccines for seventh-graders to be offered at two Saturday events

GREENSBORO There’ll be free vaccinations — as well as more enjoyable free stuff — offered over the next two Saturdays at Dudley and High Point Central high schools.

The Guilford County Schools and the Guilford County Health Department are teaming up to provide mobile health clinics for rising seventh-graders to get their Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis or Meningococcal Conjugate vaccines.

State law requires rising seventh-graders to be up to date on these immunizations. Students without the immunizations face suspension.

The first clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at Dudley High. The second clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 24 at High Point Central High.

These clinics will offer vaccines with no out-of-pocket costs to students who are uninsured or have Medicaid, BCBS or United Health Care insurance. Parents should bring their student’s immunization record, as well as their insurance card if they have insurance.

Out of The Garden and Mount Zion Greensboro will provide a limited number of free snacks, produce and gift cards for families at both locations. Prestige Barber College will provide free haircuts at Saturday’s clinic at Dudley High. Parents with questions can contact the Health Services department at (336) 370-8325.

High Point University employees to share $5 million in bonus money

HIGH POINT Shortly before the start of each new school year, High Point University gives its employees some HPU gear — things like shirts and coolers and camping chairs in purple, the school color.

This year, High Point handed out HPU swag and a big surprise.

High Point University on Tuesday stunned its 2,000 employees with news that they’ll share $5 million in bonus money.

Full-time employees will get 1% of their salaries times their years of service up to $15,000. The minimum bonus for full-time employees is $1,500. Part-time workers, adjunct professors and contract workers — people who work on campus for companies hired by HPU — will get smaller bonuses.

In an interview, President Nido Qubein said the bonuses commemorate his 15th year at the private university. They’re also a way to say thanks to HPU employees.

“Since I’ve come here, we’ve generated a mega-transformation of this university,” said Qubein, who started work as HPU’s president in early 2005. “We want to reward the people who have helped us on this remarkable journey — it’s that simple.”

In 15 years, High Point’s campus has grown to 460 acres — four times the size it was when Qubein arrived. The number of faculty has tripled, and so has enrollment. When classes start Tuesday, High Point expects a record 5,400 students.

In 2016, HPU launched the region’s first pharmacy school. A new undergraduate science building will open this month. A basketball arena, conference center and hotel facility that bears the name of Qubein and his wife is under construction on the north end of campus. It’s scheduled to open next fall.

In 2017, in a nod to the school’s growing size and reputation, The Princeton Review for the first time included High Point in its annual roundup of the best 382 colleges in the country.

Qubein said the bonuses also show that HPU is on sound financial footing at a time when many small and mid-sized private colleges are worried about their futures. Qubein said HPU hasn’t borrowed money to put up new buildings since 2011. In 2017, according to the university’s latest publicly available tax filings, HPU took in nearly $53.4 million in revenues over expenses.

“We are thriving,” Qubein said. “We’re running a solid school that has great demand and seems to be continuously growing and has a strong national brand.”

Qubein said HPU awarded $3 million in employee bonuses in 2015 to mark his 10th year as president. HPU has saved for Tuesday’s bonuses since then. Qubein said these latest bonuses won’t preclude raises or other annual bonuses for HPU employees.

Qubein surprised gatherings of faculty and staff members Tuesday with the news.

La-Nita Williams, who has worked at HPU for 32 years — it was still called High Point College when she was hired — said she looks forward to the start-of-the-year staff kickoff. The HPU swag is nice, she said. So, too, is Qubein’s annual praise of HPU employees.

When Qubein announced the bonuses from on stage at the Hayworth Fine Arts Center on campus, Williams said staff members in the audience looked at each other for a moment and then burst into applause.

“I was like, ‘Really? Oh, my goodness!’” said Williams, a circulation librarian at HPU’s Smith Library. “It was not expected. We were very pleased.”

Qubein, meanwhile, said he’s already thinking ahead to his 20th work anniversary.

“We try to do this every five years,” he said. “We’ll do it again in the 20th year.”